Calum Grant and Joshua Atesh Litle's postapocalyptic tale, set 12 years after the Kotto virus wiped out most of the human race, styled itself as a documentary portrait of a handful of the 186 men and women left in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The fictional filmmakers, Cal and Josh (Grant, Litle), focus on a cluster of survivors who've formed an extended social group around gracious, middle-aged Eva (Angie Thieriot). Problems are hashed out as a group and niceties — no side arms at the table, for example — are observed; members share technical skills and their knowledge of art, history and music. But they're trapped in a bubble between the world that used to be and the one rising from its ashes. They're not so much preserving civilization as hanging on to scraps of a dead culture, marking time before the slate is truly wiped clean. The community's rules make some survivors feel marginalized, including a pair of laid-back surfers (Simon Thieriot, Stewart Fallon); a thin-skinned scavenger with a knack for locating abandoned houses that contain caches of ever scarcer preplague goods like antibiotics, guns, liquor and cigarettes; and a conspiracy theorist (George Frangides) who is determined to document the CIA, NSA and CDC's collusion in creating the virus. And its proscriptions are increasingly out of sync with the harsh demands of a world with no safety net. The question of how to handle the return of "Mad" Mark (Mark Routhier) — whose postplague traumatization manifests itself in arson — sparks polarizing debate, and a disastrous hiking expedition makes it painfully clear where the real future lies. While old-timers agonize about what to do with genial bicycle-nomad Santosh (Brad Olsen), who is crippled by a gangrenous leg in the savage wilds of Marin County, teenager James (James Curry) — who neither remembers the way things used to be nor cares — settles the matter with ruthless pragmatism.
Grant and Litle, whose film recalls Jim McBride's equally grim and unsensational GLEN AND RANDA (1971), draw unaffected performances from their cast of nonprofessionals and prove that thoughtful writing trumps big-budget special effects. The mockumentary conceit gives a vivid immediacy to the material, and the PAL digital video cinematography is often surprisingly lyrical — certain shots of empty, fog-shrouded San Francisco sites more than make up in eeriness what they lack in special-effects decrepitude. — Maitland McDonagh leave a comment